|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6309th Meeting (AM)
Burundi, Facing Four-Month Electoral Cycle, Could Become ‘Extraordinary Example
of Political Maturity’, Secretary-General’s Envoy Tells Security Council
Burundi ’s Speaker Says Funding Gap for Elections, Development, Needs Attention;
Peacebuilding Commission Official Cites Pitfalls, Hurdles to Peace Consolidation
Continued international support was crucial for Burundi as it faced multiple election processes this year and socio-economic challenges following the critical democratic transition, Charles Petrie, Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council today.
“Burundi is set to give an extraordinary example of political maturity,” Mr. Petrie, who also heads the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), said as he addressed the Council, along with Heidi Grau of Switzerland, speaking on behalf of her ambassador, Peter Maurer, Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific configuration on Burundi, and Burundi’s Permanent Representative Zacharie Gahutu.
“A country, until recently embroiled in internal violence, is now hopefully on the verge of demonstrating how one democratically elected Government cedes place to another,” Mr. Petrie added.
He said that municipal elections had been scheduled by the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) for 21 May, presidential elections for 28 June, legislative elections for 23 July, senatorial elections for 28 July and those for officials of collines (Burundi’s smallest administrative units) on 7 September.
He expressed optimism about preparations for the elections, while noting significant challenges. An essential step in the electoral preparations was the issuing of some 900,000 free identity cards, with other documentation authorized for the completion of voter registration, which had taken place from 21 January to 8 February, garnering 3,541,596 voters, well above initial expectations.
In addition, he said, many political parties had submitted names of candidates, efforts were ongoing to encourage all parties to sign onto and adhere to the Code of Conduct for political parties and the security structures were implementing an integrated operational security plan.
The electoral budget was now almost all secured, he said, with the remaining gap now estimated at just $1,798,170, meaning that the electoral cycle could proceed while joint efforts continued to meet that final amount. Listing numerous donor countries involved, he welcomed the fact that the Government of Burundi had also provided a total of $8.1 million. The European Union had already deployed observers, with many other countries considering a contribution in that area.
The United Nations, he said, had played a long and important role in helping to prepare the ground for the elections, from coordinating international assistance and conducting field monitoring missions to providing direct support to the Electoral Commission and building capacity in security, human rights, media and gender-based aspects of the electoral process.
The challenges ahead, he said, related to the tightness of the electoral calendar and to the management of tensions that might arise, given the backdrop of violence and human suffering that had afflicted the country only a few years ago. In that context, a United Nations task force had been established that would closely monitor and react to any contingency needs for logistical or other support to the Commission.
He said that BINUB was working with partners to support the orderly, careful and non-partisan management of any disputes. Pre-electoral violence on the part of youths associated with political parties had decreased, although isolated incidents were still reported and vigilance was essential.
Despite the importance of the elections for Burundi and the region, the country would continue to face socio-economic, political and security challenges for some time, he stressed. For that reason, continued close engagement by the wider international community would remain crucial to ensure that the gains achieved in the democratic process were irreversible and that the country continued on the path of economic recovery and sustainable development.
He said that conversations were continuing with all stakeholders, including the Security Council, on what form United Nations engagement should best take after the installation of a new Government.
Ms. Grau said a delegation of the Burundi Configuration had visited the country at the end of February and had had interaction with representatives of the Government, all major political parties, the Independent National Election Commission, civil society, the business community, partner countries and regional institutions. The visit had resulted in a positive assessment. The Burundi configuration had completed the fourth biannual review of the Strategic Framework.
She said that, although there were still numerous pitfalls and challenges on the way to peace consolidation, the country had made progress. The difficulty in producing means of identification for citizens had been mastered and participants were acting according to the electoral rules in a “positive spirit of political competition”. Together with the Peacebuilding Commission, Burundi had successfully worked on financing the elections.
Successful elections would produce a peace dividend for county, she said, but Burundi would need investments for the socio-economic integration of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, returnees and demobilized fighters, as well as into labour-intensive infrastructure and agriculture projects.
Investments were also necessary for developing economic sectors that could provide the jobs, livelihoods and future for the millions of Burundians living in poverty, she said. Given the budgetary pressure mounting among traditional donors, it would be necessary to reach out to private investors willing to take a risk. The Peacebuilding Commission should also stand ready to help in building partnerships with the international financial institutions and regional entities.
The current year was a good opportunity to reflect on how to further integrate the international support for peacebuilding and development, she said. The Burundian Government was developing a new Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the Council would decide on a new mandate for BINUB and the Peacebuilding Commission would review its engagement with Burundi. It would be desirable to streamline and harmonize those efforts, merging the new Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper with a new Framework for Peacebuilding. It was essential that peacebuilding issues be identified and addressed in all three contexts.
Mr. Gahutu said the elections had been organized with professionalism, citing the establishment of an Independent National Election Commission, the successful voter registration, a calm political and military climate and the presence of regional and international observers. He added that an appropriate environment for the elections had been established and that the freedom of the press was flourishing.
The revised budget for the elections stood at more than $30 million, he said, noting that, although many donors had contributed, there was still a funding gap which required due attention. He appealed for additional funding to “plug the hole”, thereby making the 2010 elections a shared success.
As Burundi also had needs for long-term development, he proposed that the campaign for resources for both tracks be held simultaneously, the more so because the electoral cycle would last four months. In the meantime, the socio-economic engine required aid for development projects, in particular, the national strategy for socio-economic reintegration of people affected by conflict.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
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For information media • not an official record